The Emmys: The History of Outstanding Comedies - CBS

The Emmy Award nominations will be announced tomorrow, so let's continue the history of the outstanding comedy category starting with CBS. Let's look at a full breakdown and analysis, showing CBS in the category throughout the years, and see the bigger picture.

The cast of The Phil Silvers Show.
CBS started  out as a big force in the cateogory at The Emmys, and it was arguably one of their best years. There was a total of 27 nominations in the category, tying for its best result ever. The biggest player of the decade was certaintly The Phil Silvers Show which won in the category 3 times in a row, 1956, 1957, and 1958. Another prominent player was the highly acclaimed and much more familar I Love Lucy which surprisingly only won 2 times in 1953 and 1954, but nevertheless helped buoy the results of CBS at the awards. The sixth winner in the category was The Jack Benny Program which one once in 1959 making four straight wins for CBS, 1956, 1957, 1958, and 1959. Overal, CBS won six of the ten times, so
it was a win for the network.

The Cast of The Dick Van Dyke Show
Things took a turn in the 60's as NBC put out their big guns like 2 time Emmy winner Get Smart, as well as
The Monkees and The Bob Newhart Show, but CBS was still a force with 19 nominations and 4 wins, though noticeably down from the last decade. The first year was rather embarrasing for CBS when 4 out of the 5 shows nominated were CBS shows (The Danny Thomas Show, Father Knows Best, The Jack Benny Program, and The Red Skeleton Show), but all 4 ultimately lost to NBC's The Art Carney Special. But, they got one win the next year with a second win for The Jack Benny Program. Then in 1963 came The Dick Van Dyke show which dominated at the Emmys winning three times,1963, 1964, and 1966. But, that was it for CBS, The Andy Griffith Show was nominated 3 times, but never managed a win, and The Lucy Show was nominated once, but despite Lucille Ball's star power never got a win.

The cast of 4-time Emmy winner, All In The Family.
But things turned around a lot for CBS in the next decade as two powerhouses dominated in the category. After being entirely absent in the category in 1970, CBS returned with a bang in 1971 with All In The Family. For the time, the series was groundbreaking taken on controversial issues like rape and racism, something unheard of for a comedy at the time, and it payed off as All In The Family won again in 1972 and 1973, and yet another time in 1978 marking 4 wins for the network. The fourth year it lost, the award went to M*A*S*H in 1974. But, CBS's luck wasn't over in the category as a second acclaimed series made the ballot. In 1975, The Mary Tyle Moore Show ended up winning the category taking over for M*A*S*H, it would then win for two more years in 1976 and 1977. In fact, the only times CBS lost was at the beginning of the decade and the end in 1979 when ABC's Taxi beat out the rest. Overal, the network still had an amazing year managing to win the award 8 out of the 10 times, and was nominated 27 times, easily the network's best year at the awards, but best years are hard to top, or in CBS's case, hard to even come close to.

The logo for CBS's M*A*S*H, nominated 4 times in
 the decade, but not a single win. 
After an amazing year in the category, things didn't go the way CBS wanted it to. ABC's Taxi won again in 1980 and 1981 while CBS's M*A*S*H and WKRP In Cincinnati were nominated both years, but niether managed a win. 1982 saw both CBS sitcoms nominated again, with WKRP In Cincinnati in it's final season,
and not manage to win. 1983 saw the final season of M*A*S*H not make it again against NBC's powerhouse Cheers. In fact, it was the rise of NBC that more or less ruined CBS's chances of winning it big as the decade went by, powerhouses like Cheers, The Cosby Show, and The Golden Girls dominated as one of those shows won the category from 1983 to 1987. Meanwhile CBS saw Newhart in 1983, fail to get a win, and lesser know sitcom, Kate and Allie, lost all three years it was nominated from 1984 to 1986. In 1988, ABC won the competition with The Wonder Years, but CBS could only get one season wonder, Frank's Place on the ballot after being absent entirely in 1987. Then, in 1989, Cheers won yet again while CBS lost with Murphy Brown. This marked 0 wins for the network in the entire decade, and only 15 nominations, certaintly not what the network was expecting after a year of massive wins, but could the network turn it around.

The Cast of Murphy Brown. 
After 10 years without a win, Murphy Brown finally won the network something beating out NBC's Cheers for the first time in 1990, but Cheers took it back in 1991, followed by Murphy Brown winning again in 1992. But that was basically the end of CBS's success in the decade, 1993 saw critically acclaimed Seinfeld take the award. From 1994 to 1998, the winner was NBC's Fraiser dominating as NBC continued to be a
powerhouse, but in that time, not a single CBS show was nominated. The competition was getting harder as new faces started making appearances like FOX and HBO, FOX actually managed to win with Ally McBeal in 1999, and CBS finally managed to get a nomination with Everybody Loves Raymond. It's arguable if this decade was worse then the last, at least this time they managed 2 wins,  but they were completly absent from the category entirely for four years, and managed only 8 nominations, lower then last year, and things would only get harder for CBS.

The Cast of Everybody Loves Raymond. 
CBS continued to get nominated for Everybody Loves Raymond in 2000, 2001, and 2002, but to no luck. Finally in 2003, the sitcom finally got a win marking the network's first win in the category for more then a decade, HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm beat it out in 2004, but the final season of Everybody Loves
Raymond got another win in 2005, but CBS hadn't had a single other sitcom get nominated yet. Critically panned Charle Sheen vehicle Two and a Half Men surprisingly managed to get on the ballot in 2006, 2007, and 2008, but ultimately lost to NBC's more acclaimed comedies which included The Office and 30 Rock. 2009 saw a new player, How I Met Your Mother get into the nominations, but it ultimately lost to NBC's 30 Rock. This year was similar to the 90's as CBS got two wins from the same show and nothing much else, at least it got 10 nominations, more then last year, but it really wasn't a good year for the network.

The logo for The Big Bang Theory. 
The most recent decade is halfway through, but for now it's looking like an even worse year for CBS. Newer networks have continued to pop up and CBS has been pushed to the side. After being completely
absent from the category in 2010, The Big Bang Theory managed to get a nomination in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, but never winning, and always losing to ABC's Modern Family. Last year, CBS was entirely absent from the ballot as new faces made the category like Amazon and Netflix. For this year, most experts do not expect a CBS comedy to make it on the ballot, so could this mean a second year without making the ballot? The network has so far managed only 4 nominations which is lower then any other year, but it could still turn around.

Here are two graphs showing showing CBS's performance in the category, the first one of nominations and the second one of wins.

Without saying anything it's clear that the current trend is just down. CBS was a powerhouse with the critcs back in the day with acclaimed series like I Love Lucy, M*A*S*H, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and All In The Family. But, since the 1980s, why has the network suddenly gone from prominent to not? Well for one, the competition, the 80's saw NBC completly dominate with Cheers, The Cosby Show, and The Golden Girls, and then again in the 90's and 2000s with Seinfeld, Frasier, The Office, and 30 Rock. Newer faces like Amazon and Netflix have pushed CBS out of the ballot as well recently. But, it's not just that factor, recently CBS has been completly absent from the category. Why? There could be many possibilites. If you look at their current crop of comedies, they haven't exactly been well recieved by critics. Comedies like The Odd Couple and 2 Broke Girls have gotten mixed to negative reviews. But even critically acclaimed Mom is yet to get even a nomination. Maybe it's the multi-cam setup, the last comedy to win the category to not be single-cam was Everyone Loves Raymond in 2005, but despite this, CBS's one single-cam comedy, Life In Pieces is still not expected to get a nomination. It could be a mixture of this or many other factors, but the bottom line is that CBS hasn't seen a M*A*S*H or an Everyone Loves Raymond in a while, but could they ever rebound? I actually don't see it happening, newer more critically acclaimed comedies are making the ballot from Amazon like Transparent or from Nexflix like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, it's getting harder and harder for CBS to make the ballot. The five current sitcoms CBS has average a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is mediocre, so in the end, it seems bleak that CBS will ever make a comeback in the category, but who knows, maybe they'll stumble upon the next All In The Family, because as The Emmys have shown, anything is possible. 

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